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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Vietnamese Coffee Cupcakes

I have been thinking about making a Vietnamese coffee cupcake for a while - really since way back, when I worked on the Thai iced tea cupcake.

When it comes to coffee flavored cakes, what one typically finds are mocha type concoctions (coffee and chocolate) or tiramisu type desserts (sponge or lady fingers doused in coffee). I haven't found many examples of coffee-flavored cake batter outside of these two options. In lieu of an existing recipe, my approach would be simple - substitute strong brewed coffee for the liquid in a basic cake batter.

And that got me wondering... what cake batter? If you've ever taken any baking classes or read any professional baking books, you know that there are basic methods of preparing cakes including the sponge method, creaming method, two-stage method and a bunch of others. My favorite method is the creaming method which is used for many American-style baked goods. You cream the butter and sugar, add eggs, then alternate dry and wet ingredients. The result is a heavy mixture and relatively dense cake. The two stage method involves separating the eggs, following the same basic steps as with the creaming (with the exception that only egg yolks are added), then whipping egg whites to soft peaks and folding in to the batter. The result is something somewhat lighter. The classic sponge method requires heating and mixing the eggs and sugar over a water bath until it is light and fluffy. Then folding in dry ingredients and sometimes melted butter. Which of these (or any of the other) methods will translate to the dense, rich, moist, coffee flavored cake base I was looking for? I decided that the basic creaming method would result in a batter that had the bones to support the rich coffee flavor.

The resulting cake was great - great texture and moistness, but even better, a super intense, coffee flavor - exactly what I was looking for. I made a sweetened condensed milk pudding to fill the cupcakes and decided to top them with lightly sweetened whipped cream. I haven't tasted the end product (just all the components), so I will need to report on that tomorrow.

VN Coffee Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup strong brewed Vietnamese coffee
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon coffee grounds

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
5. Measure out coffee and milk together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the coffee/milk mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and coffee and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Fold in the teaspoon of coffee grounds.
10. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will shrink slightly when they cool).
11. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Tip: Be careful when adding the coffee/milk mixture to the batter. If you add it too quickly the mixture will look curdled. Add small amounts and beat well to incorporate.

cupcake ready for baking

baked cupcake

Sweetened Condensed Milk Pudding

2 teaspoons gelatin
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over a 1/4 cup of water and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. In a small pan over medium heat, heat the sweetened condensed milk until warm.
3. Add the gelatin and stir over heat until the gelatin melts.
4. Transfer mixture to a bowl set over a pan of ice water. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. It will get very thick and might clump if you stop stirring.

stirring over ice bath

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Whisk cream on high speed until soft peaks form.
2. Add sugar (more or less depending on your taste) and whip until thick.

cupcakes ready for filling

1. Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone.
2. Fill the cavity with a teaspoon or so of sweetened condensed milk pudding.
3. Replace top.
4. Top with swirls or dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
5. Dust with finely ground coffee.


Making Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese coffee is made with special grounds that contain coffee and chicory and using a special filter. It is brewed resting on a glass filled with an inch or so of sweetened condensed milk. The result is strong, rich, creamy, and sweet. I prefer mine iced. The melting ice lightens up the drink a bit.

get your filter ready

add grounds

replace filter

screw on tight for strong coffee

fill with water and wait!


Blogger Margaret said...

Beautiful! Love the piping, love the coffee sprinkle, love the beautiful cake!

5/07/2006 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

You make such lovely creations.. it makes me wonder why you wouldn't want to go into the cupcake business, ala the Magnolia cafe... ;)

Moreover, you take such lovely photos of it all.. can you please tell me your secret to such yummy photos?

5/07/2006 2:46 AM  
Anonymous yahaira said...

oh I want to try this one so bad! I have an espresso machine but not a filter like that. Where can one pick up the Vietnamese filter?

5/07/2006 7:22 AM  
Anonymous deb said...

these are lovely. I always think the coffee flavor in cakes and quick breads is too light. I can't wait to try this and get a good shot of coffee flavor. I love Vietnamese coffee. Yum.

I mostly do quick breads, with occasional detours into cupcakes - inspired by you. I bake a LOT. I've always been a "by the book" girl, but I wanted to tell you that you've totally inspired me to start trying to do my own recipes. I know you've had lots of training and your engineering ways... I think I can do it though. Thanks for that.

5/07/2006 8:24 AM  
Blogger april said...

Hey Chockylit- The cupcakes are beautiful, and the cake looks so moist! Since you would know from your own experience - could you explain the difference between Vietnamese and Thai coffee? Or do they mostly drink Thai iced tea in Thailand? I often pair Thai coffee or Vietnamese coffee ice creams with a hot chocolate cake on the dessert menu at Lantern (where I work). I use basically the same recipe for both (sweetened condensed milk, etc.), but I flavor the Thai coffee base with cardamom. Also- the one cake that I have ever had/made that was simply coffee flavored was an Italian coffee-walnut torte - Torta Rustica di Noci e caffe'- from Carol Field's Italian Baker. It is deliciously simple. The recipe is the same format as your - using strong espresso as the liquid in the creaming method. Anyway, thanks for jogging my memory of this delcious, rare cake.

5/07/2006 10:07 AM  
Blogger Honey Bunny said...

where do you buy those little cups?

5/07/2006 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Kelli said...

Oh my! That looks AMAZING!

5/07/2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Ciarra said...

Beautiful cupcakes as usual! I was wondering... do you have any tips for keeping cakes and cupcakes moist? Or even making them moist to begin with? I'm making my mother a velvet cake for Mother's Day [heart-shaped, even!] and I want it to be perfect, and since your little cupcakes are always perfect, I thought I'd ask you! Also, any tips on frosting an actual cake?

5/07/2006 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Lam said...

OMG that looks WONDERFUL! i'm vietnamese so this looks excellent and something my very picky parents would even try. One thing though.. your coffee is filtering too quick! If you want it to be super strong.. after you place the grounds and metal filter on top, put about a tbsp or so of hot water in and leave for a couple minutes to absorb into the grounds, then add in the rest of the water to filter. This creates a finer filter for the water to go through. Traditionally the coffee should basically drip one drop at a time.. it's very slow, but believe me the coffee is so much stonger and intense. This method almost eliminates all of the grounds that ends up in the coffee as well. Hah that was a long message. You make wonderful creations!

5/07/2006 11:19 PM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Beautiful creation! I'm wandering about that photo of the cupcake out of it's case....is it difficult to remove it from that cup?

5/08/2006 3:29 AM  
Blogger a girl like me said...

Hi. I was wondering how long these cupcakes would keep in light of the whipped cream for frosting.

They look AMAZING.

5/08/2006 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i had a dream last night. i was reading a book quietly in my den when the doorbell range. at the door was one of your cupcakes, only it was jumbo sized... like 5 feet tall. anyway, it invited itself into my house, made itself all comfortable and then would not let me take a bite. i was suffering quite a bit and then woke up at 3AM very hungry.

5/08/2006 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5/08/2006 4:30 PM  
Blogger shaz said...

they look out of this world! especially the topping. sinfully good!

5/08/2006 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Jace said...

Hi, I love how you always come up with such beautiful creations. Truly, you inspired me to start a series of cupcakes baking too.
By the way, I tried out your devil's food cupcake with chocolate buttercream. But my cupcakes tend to puff up in the center, resulting in a 'hill' in the middle. This make it hard for me to do the frosting. Do you know the reason for it? And for the frosting, is 4 cups of sugar a tad too sweet?

5/09/2006 7:40 PM  
Blogger chockylit said...

Yo, Margie. Thanks :)

Thanks, Jessica. My secret as far as yummy photos go is probably lots and lots of natural light. I am fairly new to this, but am truly enjoying taking pictures of cupcakes.

Yahaira, I picked one up at an asian grocery store in San Francisco called Pacific Super. They are pretty cheap, a couple of bucks. If there is an asian grocery near you, perhaps you could find one (else google it, I met they are sold online).

Hi, Deb... Thanks for the compliment and good luck with the bakign experiments.

Hi, April, that is my understanding of the difference between Thai and Vietnamese coffee (cardamom and chicory). During my last trip to Thailand, I saw a lot of iced coffee on menuas (and had a number myself), so I think its probably just as popular... Maybe we can ask Pim.

Hey, HoneyBunny, I mention all the places I know of for the little cups at the beginning of the Cupcake Questions posts. There are also a number of comments from people who have found them at other places.

Thanks, Kelli!

Hmmm, tips on moistness.. Well, some recipes tend to be more moist. To be honest anything with oil stays moist (like carrot and hummingbird cakes). Also, recipes low on flour seem to stay moist (like the melt in your mouth chocolate cake I borrowed and used throughout the blog). Lastly, as soon as the cupcakes are fully cooked, wrap them really well in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container (unfrosted). That will help as well... As for frosting regular cakes, Martha Stewart's website has some good tips. (The crumb coat is absolutely necessary and make lots of frosting. If you have to skimp, it will be hard to get the cake to look great.)

Lam, thank you for the information. I will definitely make my coffee that way from now on!

Natasha, it's not so bad. You get used to it. But I have started making a small clip into the rim with a pair of scissors (someone else's advice) this really helps.

a girl like me... good question. I am definitely keeping them in the fridge (in tupperware). It's been since Saturday (it's Tuesday now) and my husband is still eating them.

Speaking of husbands... I know who you are anonymous! (with the dream)

5/09/2006 8:58 PM  
Blogger chockylit said...

Jace - There are a multitude of things that can go wrong with baking and many reasons for it. This site has some good information as do professional baking books.

As far as too sweet goes, the challenge with frosting is to get the right consistency or else the piping will look not so nice. It is sweet, but what can I say. It is what it is.

5/09/2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger scarlettholly said...

your recipes are so fabulous. I just have one question - are u planning on pdf-ing yr recipes again - I notice the older ones have been, and they are so great!

5/11/2006 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went on a cupcake baking/eating binge (I had to make sure they tasted good). As a result, I gained 4 lbs. I made banana and maple cupcakes and Magnolia's vanilla cupcakes for a friends 25th anniversary party. They were a big hit and my friend gave me a cupcake cookbook as a thank you gift. I would be making cupcakes more often except for the weight gain issue. Ugh. I love your website. Thank you.

5/12/2006 9:03 PM  
Anonymous cath said...

Wow. I make Vietnamese coffee every week like the addict I am. I never thought...the possibilities...I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy! This is utterly gorgeous. I can't wait to read through the rest of your blog.

5/12/2006 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I have been following your lovely blog for a while now. I have a question for you about timing. I hope you wouldn't mind answering it. I'm getting married in late September and thought about serving this cupcake in lieu of a wedding cake. I'm Vietnamese and I thought this would be the perfect way to incorporate some of my background into the wedding (which is unfortunately devoid of anything particularly "cultural" right now). I think my plan of action would be to make the cupcakes Thursday (for a Saturday wedding), wrapping them well in cling film and assembling the morning of. Do you think the sweetened condensed milk pudding could be made ahead of time (Friday night, perhaps) and kept refrigerated until assembly? Also, could the same be done to the whipping cream?

5/15/2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger chockylit said...

Hi, scarlettholly. I took down the other site I was maintaining where I was hosting the pdfs from. I also no longer have the copy of Abode I was using to make pdfs... I may do it again someday, but only when I start up another website. Sorry!

Hi, Anonymous that gained 4 lbs. I feel your pain. That's why I take baking breaks!

Thanks, cath!!

Hi, Anonymous that is getting married.. Congrats! I think the cupcakes will be fine if made on Thursday, even better if made on Friday. The pudding would last overnight (refrigerated like you mention) and same goes for the whipped cream! So, you should be fine. I wish the pudding recipe were better... I need to work on it again some day. But everyone who had a cupcake really liked them. You should test it ahead of time to make sure you like it.

5/17/2006 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Bill Belew said...

As always, these turned out to be delicious. They were delicate, but flavorful and I really enjoyed making something so unusual. Thanks again for the great idea!

5/26/2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger chockylit said...

Bill Belew - I am so glad they turned out well for you. Thanks for testing out my recipes! I love to hear if they worked or not and what issues people run into. Thanks :)

5/26/2006 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mariya: hi, i'm an avid fan of your baking expertise. :) i was just wondering, what do you need to keep in mind when you want flat-topped cupcakes? because mine always turns out with a slight "swelling" at the centre. is it the oven temp or something?

5/27/2006 8:20 AM  
Blogger Audrey Cooks said...

Hi Chockylit! I would like to thank you for sharing this lovely cupcake recipe. I baked some of these cupcakes for my daughter's 3 yr old party and the verdict ... All loved it, from the youngest to the oldest! Check out my blog for the photos! Thanks again!

5/30/2006 12:02 AM  
Blogger chockylit said...

hi, mariya. there are so many factors! so much that could come into play. the funny thing is some people want flat cupcakes and some domed. go figure!

the swelling, as you mention, is considered 'bad' when you are baking cakes (which you want flat) and usually attributed to a too hot oven. this site is also pretty helpful, Baking 911

sometimes its the recipe. some tend to dome and some tend to stay flat. if the recipe domes, you could alawys put less batter in the cupcake cup.

5/31/2006 10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful little light cake.
My family renamed it the Cappicino Cake as I sprinkled crushed up coffee on top of the cream for a little extra.

6/05/2006 10:17 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I love Vietnamese coffee. I get my fix in two places here in Manila. There's something almost mystical about what the condensed milk does to the coffee.

6/09/2006 7:39 PM  
Anonymous risingsunofnihon said...

I have never heard of Vietnamese coffee. Thank you for the step by step pictures, I have an idea of what you mean now. I will certainly be testing this recipe in the near future!

6/10/2006 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your site! Best I've found yet. Can't wait to try some recipes! I want to open a Cupcakery..what do you think? Are cupcakes just a fad? Everyone seems to love them! But can you make a living selling them?

6/19/2006 6:37 AM  
Blogger baby221 said...

These things are wonderful. Thanks so much for the recipe!

6/20/2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger ScruffyEatsLambchop said...

Wow, interesting creation. Usually (not always) VN coffee is mixed with condensed milk. Maybe I'll incorporate that ingredient into your already wonderful recipe when I try it out. Thanks for sharing.

6/26/2006 7:32 AM  

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